Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Four Midwestern Bagel Service Atrocities

I tried to leave my New Yorkers know best attitude at the door when I left to become a Midwesterner 16 years ago, but there are some things that people in these parts really need to learn from Gotham.  That your legs don’t stop working when you step onto an escalator is one.  Another, which will be the subject of this post, is bagel service.
Mind you, bagel service is not complicated.  By no means am I implying that only New York minds could come up with the proper way to serve a bagel with cream cheese.  We can’t even figure out a reasonable way to transport people to our airports, for goodness’ sake.  No, serving a bagel with cream cheese the right way is so easy that even a PS 169 grad like me can do it.  You slice the bagel and you put cream cheese on it.  That’s it!  There’s nothing more to it, yet there are countless ways in which Midwesterners overcomplicate the process and ruin it.  I’ve listed some of these egregious errors below with the hope that anyone with bagel service responsibility will heed  my warning, and that anyone who knows a person with such responsibility will pass it on.  After 16 years, I’m getting angry about this. Do not keep screwing up my bagel with cream cheese. 
Four Common Midwestern Bagel Service Atrocities:
4. Double slicing.  A bagel should be sliced across its equator so that cream cheese can be applied.  Under no circumstances should it then be sliced again longitudinally.  I don’t know if it’s the more heavily Christian population here or what, but this cross-pattern slicing has got to stop.  The cream cheese oozes out of the center and it’s a mess to eat this way.  Stop it. Really.

3. Cream cheese on the side.  If a man orders a bagel with cream cheese, he wants a bagel with cream cheese on it.  This practice of handing over an unsliced bagel with a plastic tub of cream cheese and a flimsy plastic knife is insulting.  Those flimsy knives can’t even slice a ripe, peeled banana.  They’re hopeless against a bagel, and even more hopeless in spreading the rock-hard cream cheese in that tub you took directly from the ice box.  Do you give these knives out because you’re worried about customers having weapons to use against you?  Continue this cheese on the side practice, and such worry might become justified.
2. Calling the thing a “schmear”.  This is the only one that makes me think, maybe Midwesterners really are less intelligent than New Yorkers.  “Schmear?”  You’re an adult, for Willett’s sake!

1. Toasting.  Toasting ruins a bagel’s chewy reason to exist.  Toasting is for, well, toast.  A bagel is not toast.  Stop this.  If you encounter customers who insist on having their bagel toasted, I’ll allow you to decide whether or not you want to accommodate such misguided people.  If you’re the kind of place that allows people to add grilled chicken breast to any salad on the menu, then you should go ahead and accommodate this equally ridiculous request too.  But so many places toast by default, without even asking if that’s what the customer wants.  Stop this.  People complain to me:  “But what if the bagel isn’t fresh?  Isn’t it better toasted then?”  If you’re eating or serving a stale bagel, stop reading this blog and think about what your life has become. 


  1. I can testify personally that the dull butter knives at Reno are no better than plastic knives when it comes to slicing a bagel yourself.

  2. According to this, a bagel is no longer fresh after thirty minutes, so we're all likely eating stale bagels, including 99% of NYC: http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2009/10/serious-eats-finds-new-yorks-best-bagel-1.html

  3. Furthermore, toasting the bagel adds HEAT to the thing on the bagel. When heat is applied to cream cheese, it gets runny like creme fraiche.

    And a good bagel is plenty fresh to eat untoasted for pretty much the entire same day that it's baked.

  4. Dude, "Schmear" is New York slang. Don't put that shit on Chicago!